PID can be prevented by avoiding exposure to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). All sexually active teens should be screened regularly for STDs.

PID is not contagious, but the bacteria that can lead to PID are highly contagious; all sexual partners of someone diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea should be notified and treated with antibiotics, even if they have no signs or symptoms.

Although birth control pills do not protect against STDs, they may give some protection against PID by causing the body to create thicker cervical mucus, making it harder for bacteria to reach the upper genital tract.

Any unusual discharge or pelvic pain should be checked out by a doctor. Because PID is a very serious disease that can permanently damage the reproductive organs, it is important for patients who engage in unprotected sex, or who have many partners, to have regular checkups.

penicillin The first antibiotic to be widely used, it was developed from a type of mold first discovered by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming. His discovery led to the development of a wide variety of antibiotics. The biggest difference between bacterial and normal cells is the thick cell wall that protects the bacterial cell membrane. Normal human cells do not have this cell wall, and so any substance that interferes only with cell wall formation could not damage a human. Penicillins and related antibiotics work by interfering with the production of the bacterial cell wall, which is why they are among the safest of drugs—they cannot harm healthy cells. Today there are more than 20 different kinds of penicillins used to treat a variety of infections. However, none of the penicillins (or any other antibiotic) will fight colds, flu, or other viral infections. By 1960 seven classes of antibiotics had been identified.

Today scientists are faced with a growing problem of bacterial resistance to many of the penicillins. Bacteria are broadly classified into two types—gram-negative and gram-positive, depending on how they respond to a particular staining technique. The gram-negative bacteria (such as Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas) are far less susceptible to the penicillin family than are the gram-positive bacteria, such as Streptococci. Newer forms of penicillins are much more effective against the gram-negative organisms.

Still, the bacterial ability to adapt to antibiotics seems almost limitless. As antibiotic use became

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